In question period on April 7, New Democratic Party Leader Ryan Meili asked if Premier Scott Moe wouldn’t change a single thing about how he has handled the COVID-19 response, referencing an interview Moe gave at the end of 2020.
“That showed an astonishing lack of insight and humility, even at that time. But since then, hundreds more have died, thousands have been sick, and with the prolonged public health measures necessitated by his lack of decisive action, thousands more are out of work.”
Meili asked, “Will he finally admit, will he finally admit that his choices have hurt Saskatchewan’s health and economy, or would he still not change a thing?”
Moe responded, “We’ve taken a measured and balanced response in this province. We have made every effort to yes, protect lives, but also to protect livelihoods, and protect the personal freedoms that people have in their household, in their personal life, in their community.
“We have put significant measures in place, likely the most significant public health measures that have ever been enacted in this province in the province’s history. We have put those measures in place, and in large part the vast majority of people in this province have adhered to those public health measures that have been recommended and put in place by our Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Shahab.
“Has any response across this nation or around the world been perfect? Most certainly not,” Moe said. “We learn as we find our way through each of the last 12 months. We’re going to continue with that balanced and measured response. We’re going continue to focus in the days, including today, and the days ahead, on our vaccine rollout, ensuring that as we receive vaccines, we’re making them available to Saskatchewan people. That’s our way through the pandemic.”
Meili quoted Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, saying, ““In the race between vaccines and variants of COVID-19, the variants are winning.”
He then said of Moe, “He saw that race going on between variants and vaccines and he said, ‘Let’s give the variants a head start.’ He saw the modelling. He knew what was coming, and still he chose to reduce restrictions. Will the Premier admit he got it wrong in the fall; he got it wrong this spring? Will he finally admit that his choices have hurt our health and our economy? Or would he still not change a single thing?”
Moe replied, “I have been discussing openly and publicly that we have been in a race between the variants and the vaccines for some period of time. And here is what we have focused on in Saskatchewan is providing the vaccines that we receive from the federal government to Saskatchewan people as quickly as we receive them. As of this morning, Mr. Speaker, we’re at about 235,000 vaccines have been turned around to the people of the province.”
“As of just the last day or two, we have virtually all of our long-term care residents vaccinated, and we know the challenge that COVID presents in our long-term care settings.
“We have 80 per cent of the folks that are over 80 in this province have received their vaccines, 70 per cent of the folks over 70 years old. And we are over one-third of our way through those folks that are over 60 years old in the province. All have had access to those vaccines for a number of days now, Mr. Speaker. And we’re going to continue to turn those vaccines around as we receive them — finally receiving some substantial numbers here in the province — turn them around, provide them as quickly as we can to all Saskatchewan residents. This is our way back to normal. This is our way through the COVID-19 pandemic. This is our way back to the normal days that we all desire.”
Meili said he and many other health care workers have been administering those vaccines. Meili said, “But those vaccines will not bring back the people we’ve already lost. They do nothing to console those who are right now praying that their loved ones will make it out of our overcrowded ICUs (intensive care units). And they’re not doing anything to protect the over a third of health care workers who still don’t have their first dose.”
Meili asked for an “honest assessment of the stat of COVID-19 in the province today,” saying, “When will we see a plan to bring the third wave under control?”
Moe replied, “What vaccines will do is prevent people from contracting COVID here in Saskatchewan.
That’s why we are making every effort, with a well-thought-out plan between ... The Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health have put forward a well-thought-out plan with well over 200 clinics that’ll be operating across this province. Many of them are operating as we speak today, as we do have some vaccines on the ground here today.
“As I said, we have about 235,000 vaccines that have been provided to Saskatchewan people on our age-based priority. We have a vaccine rollout plan that is leading this nation.
“We have delivered more vaccines per 100,000 people than anywhere else in the nation, approaching about 20,000 people per 100,000. It’s a plan that I most certainly am proud of our Saskatchewan Health Authority and the Ministry of Health for putting together and putting into action.
Moe called it “a robust vaccination plan that’s leading the nation.”
Meili said, “Premier has been the best ally that COVID-19 could possibly have. The biggest threat to our health and to our economy is this Premier and his lack of leadership when it comes to addressing the pandemic. And in the race between variants and the vaccines, he said, let’s give the variants a head start. That’s exactly the choices that he has made. His inaction has given us the worst of both worlds. It’s cost us lives and it’s cost us jobs.”
Moe said, “The balanced and measured approach that we spoke to, Mr. Speaker, does ensure that yes, we are enacting those measures to protect lives here in the province but also ensuring that we are respecting people’s personal freedoms and respecting and protecting their livelihoods in community after community.
“We have reached out and supported many of the people, many of the jobs, many of the opportunities that we have in this province, to the tune of about $2 billion last year, $1.5 billion in this current budget that was released yesterday.
“And, in those supports, over $160 million provided to the Ministry of Health, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, to ensure that they have the resources to deliver on the response that is required in our health care sector.
“We’ve done about $155 million transferred to the school divisions to ensure our classrooms are safe, and negotiated with the federal government over $300 million coming into the province to ensure that we can keep people safe in this province and support people through some of these very significant health measures that have been put in place in Saskatchewan.”